People

Advisory Board

Lawrie Balfour
Professor, Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics

A political theorist who studies race, gender, democracy, and literature with a focus on African American political thought. Balfour is especially interested in investigating the relationship between the legacies of slavery and democratic possibilities in the U.S.

Dr. Douglas is Executive Director of the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center and co-chair of the President's Commission on the University in the Age of Segregation.

Dr. Dukes is a mediator and facilitator who founded University & Community Action for Racial Equity (UCARE) addressing UVA’s legacy of white supremacy, led community engagement as a member of the design team for UVA’s Memorial to Enslaved Laborers, served on Charlottesville’s Commission determining the fate of the City’s Confederate statues, and co-leads planning for Central Virginia’s Truth & Transformation Commission.

Claudrena Harald Headshot
Professor and Chair, Corcoran Department of History and the Carter G. Goodson Institute

Harold's research and teaching interests include African American social and cultural history, black-nationalist and Pan-African movements, and labor politics.

Andrew Johnston
Associate Professor, Architectural History and Director of UVA's Program in Historic Preservation

Johnston has served as a supervising architect for the Historic American Engineering Record and as an environmental planner for the California State Department of Transportation.

Louis Nelson
Vice Provost for Academic Outreach and Professor, Architectural History

Nelson is author of Pulpits, Piety, and Power: Anglican Architecture and Material Culture in Colonial South Carolina.

Eto Otitigbe is a polymedia artist who creates sculptures and public installations. He is also the Director of the Turnbull Townhouse Gallery in New York and an Assistant Professor of Sculpture in the Art Department at Brooklyn College. He contributed to the creative expression on the exterior surface of the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers at UVA. 

Fellows & Affiliates

Justin McBrien

Post-doctoral Research Associate

Justin McBrien earned his PhD in environmental history at the University of Virginia. His work focuses on the intersections between capitalism, climate change, and environmental justice activism during the Cold War era. He has published a variety of articles in both scholarly and popular venues, including a piece in The Washington Post on rural climate activists in the 1950s and an article in the volume Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism (PM Press, 2016) where he first introduced the concept of the Necrocene, an idea now used across a wide range of disciplines to describe the current extinction event as not just of the erasure of species, but of peoples, languages, and cultures. Justin is currently writing a manuscript, “The First Extermination Event: Capital and Extinction.”

Gillet Rosenblith

Post-doctoral Research Associate

Gillet Gardner Rosenblith is a historian of race, space, gender, and poverty in the 20th century United States. In addition to her work with the Memory Project, she is working on her book, which will be based on her dissertation, “Criminalization, Empowerment, and the End of Public Housing as We Knew It, 1969-2000.” Gillet has done extensive collaborative research and published on the Confederate Statues in Charlottesville. She also contributed to the Charlottesville Syllabus. At present, Gillet is also helping the Beloved Community Center of Greensboro, North Carolina build an archive from their extensive organizing materials. She is an award-winning teacher who has taught in the Departments of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, History, and African and African American Studies.

Micah Watson

Artist-in-Residence

Micah Ariel Watson is a filmmaker and playwright with roots in the Black church and an addiction to 16mm film. Her short film 40th & State screened at TIFF Cinematheque, MOCA in LA, and BlackStar Film Festival. Micah was a 2019 Sundance Theater Lab Finalist and a 2019 O’Neill Center National Playwrights Conference Semifinalist for Wake Up Music! Her play Alaiyo is the 2020 recipient of the Kennedy Center’s Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award, Hip-Hop Creator Award, Rosa Parks Playwriting Award, and received distinction for the Paula Vogel Playwriting Award. Micah was selected for Tribeca Film Festival’s 2020 N.O.W. Creator’s Market. She is the writer/director of Black Enough, a web series streaming on YouTube. Originally from Wichita Kansas, Micah is an MFA graduate of NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

Nia Williams

Nia Williams

Project Affiliate

Project Manager

Manager of the Memory Project

Claire Antone Payton is the Manager of the Memory Project at UVA's Democracy Initative. A historian by training, she has a decade of experince researching, teaching about, and living in the Caribbean. She has written extesively on the history of Haiti, cities, and disaster. Previously she was a postdoctoral fellow at UVA's Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies. She is currently writing a book on Port-au-Prince during the Duvalier era in Haiti. She also is the creator of the Haiti Memory Project, an archival collection of first person testimonies about the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Director

Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Jalane Schmidt is Director of the UVA Democracy Initiative’s Memory Project, and Associate Professor of Religious Studies. She teaches courses on race, religion, and social change movements, and is the author of Cachita’s Streets: The Virgin of Charity, Race & Revolution in Cuba, a study of Cuban national identity, religion, and public events. A scholar-activist in Charlottesville, Virginia, Schmidt plans and leads public history events focused upon Civil War memory, Jim Crow, and local African American history. She cofounded the 2019-2020 Monumental Justice Virginia campaign which successfully lobbied the Virginia General Assembly to overturn a century-old state law which had prohibited localities from removing Confederate statues.